Ophelia Lai reviews the manifestos of those running for Union Chair
The position of Union Chair is intended to serve an important watchdog role, ensuring that democratic standards are upheld in the conduct of Union affairs, particularly in elections and referenda. To put it in harsher terms, their job is to make sure student politics is not a farce. Unfortunately, the focus on student disengagement in this area in the manifestos of this year’s candidates, Giaccomo Ugarelli and Gabriel Gavin, would suggest that a significant portion of the student population sees student politics in this light.
Preposterously low turnout in UCL’s student elections has been a recurring issue, and both candidates make reversing this trend a key part of their platforms. Giaccomo Ugarelli proposes a creative, tech-savvy solution in the form of a mobile app to make voting in student elections easier. While there is certainly an appeal in the idea that there is yet another task I can now do with a few taps on my phone screen, thus saving me the trouble of expending the herculean effort required to reach for my laptop and vote with a few taps on my keyboard, this solution seems to fall dangerously close to the realm of ‘gimmick’, circumventing what is probably the more serious underlying issue that leads to low turnout—apathy.
Ugarelli makes a quick save, however, quickly shifting the focus to student alienation, which also forms the bulk of Gabriel Gavin’s manifesto. Both candidates aim to increase engagement between the Union and students, and suggest cooperation with clubs and societies. Beyond this, Ugarelli’s sparse manifesto peters out, unable to match the level of detail in Gavin’s action plan.
Gavin’s electoral platform assigns much weight to the issue of student representation, emphasizing the need to “[realign] the union with the student body” by supporting motions and campaigns that directly pertain to the realities of student life. Gavin appears to hold an anti-ideological stance with regards to the way that the Union is run, criticising the “irrelevant solidarity motions” that “derail” genuine representation of student needs and interests.
Gavin’s manifesto also has the benefit of acknowledging the financial issues that have plagued the Union, a notable absence in Ugarelli’s manifesto. Gavin stresses the need to “bring spending in-line with budgetary constraints” while providing support for clubs and societies that may face cuts in funding, although further details as to how he hopes to achieve this are undisclosed.
Both candidates show an understanding that one of the issues that most seriously undermines fairness and democracy in the Union is the lack of true representation of the student body. Yet this is due to a vicious circle of apathy and the decision not to vote on the part of the student body. If you feel that you, as a student of UCL, are not being represented, it is up to you to make your voice heard by voting in the union elections. The candidates have spoken. Now it’s your turn.
A full list of the candidates can be found here.
Voting opened at 10am Thursday 26th February and closes Thursday 5th March. You can vote here.